Thoughts on the Occasion of the Installation of Headmaster David Rath
The Prophet Isaiah tells us to seek the LORD while he wills to be found. (Is. 55:6) That is the starting point for all of Christian life in general, and for Episcopal education in particular. The Lord wills to be found. God wants us to know him
Finding God is not like finding Waldo. If you are familiar with the children’s series of books–Where’s Waldo— you know that Waldo is a distinctive character with glasses, a striped sweater, and a matching striped stocking cap. The author tosses Waldo in with a mass of various other cartoonish characters so that readers can eventually spot Waldo in the crowd.
You find Waldo, but you don’t really know Waldo. You know what he looks like, but you have no idea what goes on in his mind, what his dreams are, or what he’s doing in that crowd. You just recognize him by his outward appearance. You find Waldo like you find a lost sock. “Ah, there he is! Next page!” Finding Waldo doesn’t change anything about you. You can just move on.
God wants to be found in a very different way. He wants us to know his mind and his heart. To return to Isaiah, his thoughts are not our thoughts. His thoughts are higher and lovelier than ours. But he wants to make them accessible to us. His dreams and desires are beyond anything we could ever imagine, but he wants to impart them to us.
He wants us to know him as a person, not merely from the outside like a rock or planet. And to do so, he opens up his thoughts to us. And his thoughts do not return to him empty. God is not given to idle thoughts. When we find God the person, we’re not just finding Waldo. We are transformed from the inside out.
It is an old Christian tradition to think of God as an author. Now you might think that I mean the Bible. And God is certainly the author of the Book of Scripture. But, as St. Augustine taught us to see, God is also the author of the Book of Nature.
God shows himself to us in Holy Writ but also in the natural and the human world. He created us to read both books and to learn about God from the perspective of both Scripture and the Creation.
Episcopal education is devoted to teaching us to read, truly read, both the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. We submit that there is no genuine tension between the truth of God’s self-revelation in the Bible and the truth we learn about him in science, literature, social science, and the performing arts.
Episcopal education is then given over not only to facts and theories, but most especially to the development of wisdom. As both the Psalmist and the author of Proverbs teach us, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord: awe and wonder at the person of God.
So as we teach our young people about our planet and the stars, about Shakespeare and the Roman Empire, about the human psyche and the human genome, we are imparting much more than a familiarity with the brute facts of a merely material existence.
We are engendering in young hearts and minds an appreciation of the Creator through his Creation. In the end, we hope to instill in their souls the comforting certainty that God means for them to dwell in this place. Not one of us is here by accident. God’s love sends us into this world for a single remarkable purpose.
We humans are the very image of God, especially designed by God himself to read his tender majesty and heart-rending beauty in his creation.
And so at the beginning of this new school year, at the start of this schools new era under the leadership of Dr. David Rath as head of school, I remind us all not only to seek the Lord while he wills to be found. But to stand back in awe and wonder that our God is precisely the one who wants to be found by the likes of us.